In the wake of the pandemic, there have been numerous shifts in how travellers interact with hotels. This evolution of guest behaviour has subsequently affected demands on the housekeeping department.
“The way that hotel rooms are being used [has] changed dramatically,” says Shannon Hall, vice-president, Sales & Marketing for Dustbane Products Ltd. “You used to often go down to the dining room to eat. Well, now you’ve got Uber Eats and SkipTheDishes and all the services that are delivering right to your hotel room door, so you have lot of different foods that are going in that room that can create different odours, but also different staining when it comes to grease or [other substances] that may get dripped onto carpets and floors.”
As a result, Hall explains, “some of the tools [housekeeping teams] might need to use — like a mini spotter — may not have been something that they were using in the past, but it’s certainly becoming a lot more frequent when it comes to cleaning [hotel] rooms for that optimal guest experience.”
In other instances, new standards within hotels have eliminated unnecessary touchpoints and streamlined the process of cleaning guestrooms.
“Following the pandemic, cleanliness and safety are now key factors in the guest’s expectation,” says Jim Stewart, director of Human Resources, Chelsea Hotel Toronto. And these shifts, he notes, have influenced the hotel’s South Tower renovations. “We have limited the items that were in the room and simplified them to maintain a cleanliness and safety focus,” he explains.
Perhaps one of the most common examples of the changing approach to room amenities is the elimination of physical guest directories. Feedback from guests, owners and operators led Hyatt to introduce a Digital Guest Compendium at many of its properties. The company’s new app-less digital solution provides guests with a “clean, consistent and contactless experience to obtain important in-stay information via a QR code unique to each property.”
This not only removes a touchpoint for in-room cleaning, but also reduces waste and printing costs.
At a time when a clean and safe-feeling environment are more important than ever to the guest experience, Nicolas Messian, regional director for New Castle Hotels & Resorts and general manager of The Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, N.B., notes “We have to move away from [a focus on] quantity and all those extras that maybe differentiated [hotels] from the home and bring in more of a home feeling. It’s greener, it’s easier [on staff], it’s not cheaper for the hotel, but it [delivers] a sense of quality versus quantity.”
In an environment where guests frequently skip the front desk altogether, housekeeping staff play an increasingly important role in creating a memorable stay for the guest.
“When you enter the room, there is a feel-good [moment], the room is clean, it smells good. That’s the first good impression and the first purpose for the housekeeper is to deliver that,” says Messian. But, he is quick to note that those who work in housekeeping play another role as well.
“I want my housekeepers to be like the Inspector Clouseau’s of the world…because, at the end of the day, they’re spending 40 minutes every day in [the guest’s] space,” he explains. “That’s something that no one else will do in the hotel.”
By gathering clues and insights into the guest’s specific needs, the hotel team then has the opportunity to enhance the guest’s stay. “Suddenly the purpose of a housekeeper is not just about cleaning rooms, it’s about creating memories — creating experiences that people will cherish,” says Messian.
Recent research by IHG Hotels & Resorts highlights the increasing importance of this kind of approach. The company’s global survey revealed that, post-pandemic, 78 per cent of global travellers are placing high-quality service above all else when booking a hotel. Further, 48 per cent of travellers indicated a “friendly, approachable and personalized experience” is more important than ever in the current environment.
“Just like travel has changed, consumers expectations have too,” shares Will Yell, vice-president, Luxury and Upscale Conversion and Affiliate Brands at IHG Hotels & Resorts. “With nearly half of travellers stating they want to be valued as individuals, a one-size-fits-all approach to hotel service no longer resonates with travellers.”
And, beyond delivering on guests’ expectations, as Messian sees it, empowering the housekeeping team to be the eyes and ears of the hotel, capable of instigating a wider impact on a guests’ experience, instills a greater sense of purpose. “My mission as a general manager, as a leader, is to show them how important they are and to really develop [or] re-enhance that sense of purpose,” he explains.
As hotels strive to deliver on warm and personal guest experiences, Mandy Farmer, CEO, Accent Inns Inc., stresses that ensuring staff feel valued and cared for is key. “We know that people who are loved hard will love hard. They’ll pay it forward,” she explains. “They’ll take care of each other the way we take care of them and they’ll spread that love…Our guests feel it.”
Furthering this sentiment, Messian adds, “[A hotel needs] to have a strong base and the base needs to be the housekeeping department.”
BY DANIELLE SCHALK